Two items appear below:
1 Tyre Prophecy Probability Ken DeMyer
2 What Lies Behind Biblical Prophecy John H Williams
TYRE PROPHECY PROBABILITY
(Investigator 111, 2006 November)
In his book Science Speaks Professor Peter W. Stoner defended various Bible prophecies vis a vis their odds of fullfillment.
The book was reviewed by the American Scientific Affiliation who found "The mathematical analysis included is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way." (Forward to Science Speaks)
He looks at prophecies concerning Bible cities/places (Tyre, Samaria, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jerusalem, Moab, Amon, Jericho, etc). The book was made well known by Josh McDowell's Evidence that Demands a Verdict which is a well known Christian apologetic. Now what made Professor Stoner's work convincing to me is that he assigns odds of certain aspects of a prophecy being fulfilled in order to come up with a probability for the whole prophecy.
For example, I cite this excerpt from Science Speaks concerning the Tyre prophecy:
What chance did Ezekiel have of knowing that Nebuchadnezzar would, in his conquering of Tyre, not completely fulfill the prophecy of destruction, but other nations would later come in and complete the fulfillment? The indications in the time of Ezekiel certainly were that when Nebuchadnezzar took a city he was quite capable of completing the destruction himself, so the estimate was placed at one in five...If readers wish to see how Professor Stoner arrived at his 1 in 75,000,000 figure I recommend looking at the online book or obtaining a print copy.
What chance did Ezekiel have of knowing that Tyre would be made flat like the top of a rock, after it was conquered? How many cities have been made flat like the top of a rock after being conquered? The sites of nearly all ancient cities are marked by mounds of accumulated debris. I do not know of any other city where the ruins have been so completely cleared away, so the estimate of one in five hundred was chosen...
The chance then of Ezekiel writing this prophecy from his own knowledge, and having it all come true, is 1 in 3 x 5 x 500 x 10 x 10 x 5 x 20. This is 1 in 75,000,000.(From the online version of Science Speaks.
By the way, according to Evidence that Demands a Verdict the new city of Tyre (fishing village I believe) is not built on the old city of Tyre but is built nearby.
To my knowledge no skeptic has challenged Professor Stoner's work in terms of trying to refute his probability reasoning.
Given that Josh McDowell made Professor Stoner's work well known I don't think the skeptics have a good excuse for not tackling it.
WHAT LIES BEHIND
John H Williams
(Investigator 117, 2007 November)
"All the prophecies, it could be argued, are predictions which are open to interpretation, depending on your level of involvement/disinterest. Such prophecies can never be objective evidence or 'proof' of anything." (Wikipedia on the prophecies of Daniel)
In Investigator 111, Ken DeMeyer offered "Tyre Prophecy Probability", and it raises the issue of the chancy business of prediction.
An article in The Australian (25/10/06) referred to one of the world's best-known demographers, Paul Ehrlich, the author of The Population Bomb (1968). During the 1970s I ‘taught' some of his 'predictions', given as startlingly dramatic warnings of scary doomsday scenarios, a guaranteed way to attract attention and sell a lot of books!
Mass starvation has not occurred, and the current world population is 6.6 billion, compared to 3.55 billion in 1968. There are over 300million Americans (202mn), with a life expectancy of 77.7 years.
- In the 1970/80s, hundreds of millions would starve to death.
- USA's population would decline and life expectancy would drop to 42 years by 1990, due to "pesticide usage."
- Population growth would overtake food and minerals.
- England (UK?) wouldn't exist by 2000 (now 60.2 million)!
Thomas Malthus got it wrong in 1798, and neo-Malthusians like Ehrlich have made the same egregious error of underestimating the impact of economic growth and technology. Ehrlich, having been comprehensively and embarrassingly wrong, has sided with the environmental doomsayers such as Al Gore – see An Inconvenient Truth warning of the perils of continued growth on a planet facing the threat of global warming. He thinks that a decline in world population to two billion (under the combined population of India and China) is an "achievable target to aim for in the long term". I'm predicting that this won't happen: instead expect a ‘plateau' of about nine billion in 2042.
Returning to prophetic probability, I view DeMeyer's reference to the predictions in Professor Stoner's book, Science Speaks (1952,1958, 1963, 1968 and 1976 editions) as yet another red herring thrown up in a futile attempt to validate an assumed deity's apparent role in an ancient set of books.
We've received minimal information about Stoner that I believe is directly relevant to his findings and to his academic credibility. This reader has had to do the work because DeMeyer, for whatever reason, omits that which I believe he was well aware of:
Stoner was born in 1888 and died in 1982. His work looks 'dated', and his prime source was a book published in 1931, called Fulfilled Prophecies that Prove the Bible, by George T Davis. Stoner's grandson, Don Stoner, reveals that this book was in Peter Stoner's bookshelf. (From his annotations on the 2002 net version of Science Speaks, we can deduce that Don is an ID creationist).
Stoner was an Old Earth creationist, clearly shown if one reads the text of Science Speaks. Throughout his career Stoner was eager to connect discoveries in cosmology to Scripture, such as "dark nebulae" and a passage in Genesis 1, "and darkness was upon the face of the deep". In the original Hebrew "And the earth was shapeless, very rare, and darkness dwelt upon its face. It was of unmeasurable magnitude and in great commotion." "With this translation it seems difficult to refer to anything except a diffuse dark nebula, since our sun / solar system probably formed out of such a nebula." (P W Stoner).
A plausible 'coincidence' perhaps, but in my opinion drawing a very long bow.
The American Scientific Affiliation, the 'scientific' body which DeMeyer tells us liked Stoner's "…principles of probability which are thoroughly sound and he's applied these principles in a proper and convincing way" (Forward (sic) to Science Speaks), was co-founded by Stoner in 1941, and is a Christian organisation!
It would have given him a ringing endorsement, wouldn't it? The Foreword was written by Dr H H Hartzler, another creationist, who was an influential member of the ASA, and a long-serving Executive Secretary and later President.
"The ASA is a fellowship of men and women in science and disciplines that relate to science who share a common fidelity to the Word of God and a commitment to integrity in the practice of science." (Source: Wikipedia on Peter W Stoner)
Where's the integrity in choosing a title which omits naming the religious essence of the organisation? It's still active with a world-wide membership of 1500, many of whom I believe are creationists, including a significant number of ID adherents. Was the misnomer an oversight or was it deliberately deceptive?
The same applies to Stoner's book title, Science Speaks, when it's clearly Creation 'Science'. Additional credibility is given by the author, as a Professor of Maths and Astronomy, giving the impression that it's an authoritative product of an unbiased and disinterested mathematician/scientist.
For the 1976 edition, when Stoner was 88, his co-author was Robert Newman, a Philadelphia Professor of the New Testament, Biblical School of Theology. The book makes it clear that Stoner believed that 'faith' was threatened by scientific discoveries, and that he set up a pseudoscientific/mathematical exercise to 'prove' the accuracy of Ezekiel's and other OT prophecies.
The source of the information analysed by Stoner is pseudo history, in which "myths, legends and sagas are treated as the literal truth, by anyone not sceptical in his reading of ancient history, who considers the possibility of something being true as sufficient to believe it is true, if it fits one's agenda" (The Skeptic's Dictionary). This faith-based literalism damages a writer's academic objectivity, and it's highly likely that confirmation bias – and its 'co-worker', selective thinking – were at work in a non-conscious way.
Given the above, I'll not address the historical accuracy of what actually happened at Tyre, as opposed to what eventually found its way into the King James Version.
Nor will I address that unconvincing 1 in 75 million ‘coincidence'. I refer readers to the essentials of the biblical prophecy 'game', sometimes laughingly referred to as the "atheist's nightmare": "always 100% accurate", but it clearly isn't! (See below the article by skeptic, F Till)
In his book, Stoner gives 13 events in Genesis 1 that were "accomplished" to "his complete satisfaction in the order given". For example:
i In the beginning God created heaven and the earth (v1)
ii And the earth was without form, and void etc (v2)
x And God created whales which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind (v21)
xiii So God created man in his own image (v 27)
Stoner's Introduction includes this passage: "If Genesis were written by man using the scientific ideas at the time we could expect to find most of its definite statements in error. If we find them all verified by the best of our science today we can be certain that Genesis does not present the beliefs and culture of the days it was written."
One might ask the precise meaning of the phrase, "all verified by the best of our science today". If that "science" is reflected in the naïve and superficial level of analysis demonstrated by Stoner in his Chapter 1, it's an impoverished, non-analytical process, of the kind favoured by creationist writers with an advanced case of confirmation bias. "We might define science as the result of the attempt of man to determine what God did in the creation and what laws He laid down…" (PW Stoner)!
Having convinced himself, Stoner was able to claim that his work was part of the "evidence that continues to accumulate in favour of the Bible as the product of a Divine Intelligence": familiar territory for Investigator readers. I present this article as an expose of what may underpin the processes involved in some, if not most, creationist apologetics.
Stoner P W Science Speaks (1952-1976) online version at
Carroll R T The Skeptic's Dictionary (online)
Peter W Stoner in Wikipedia
Till F Fulfilled Prophecy: An Unprovable Claim (2) in The
Skeptical Review March-April 1996 (online)
DeMeyer K Tyre Prophecy Probability, Investigator #111
The Bible investigated – Hundreds of articles: